Library of Congress Literacy Awards

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. When can I submit an application?
    The application period is from January 31 to the end of March. All applications must be submitted by March 31.

  2. When will I know if my application was successful?
    Award winners will be contacted in late July. Best practice honorees will be contacted no later than August, after which all other applicants will be notified.

  3. When are the winners announced?
    Award winners and best practice honorees will be publicly announced in September.

  4. Applicants

  5. Who can apply for the literacy awards?
    Any organization or program that does not operate on a for-profit basis is eligible to apply.

  6. Can I nominate an individual for his or her substantial contribution to literacy?
    No. We do not accept nominations for individuals.

  7. My literacy project is part of a government program, am I eligible to apply?
    Yes. We accept applications for projects created or sponsored by local, regional or national governments.

  8. Application

  9. What must be included in a complete application?
    A complete application includes the application form, five selection criteria statements of no more than 250 words each, an essay of no more than 750 words and two letters of reference. Submissions that do not include all of these may be disqualified.

  10. May we include additional materials with our submission?
    Only the application form, essay, selection criteria statements and letters of reference will be provided to the judges. However, you may include links to additional web content in your essay.

  11. Where do I find information about completing the application?
    See Apply for the application, award descriptions and guidelines. See How to Apply for detailed instructions on completing the application and see About the Selection Criteria for more information about the five selection criteria: innovation, sustainability, replicability, measurable results and evidence-based practice.

  12. Category

  13. Which prize category should I apply to?
    If you are an organization based in the United States, you may apply for the American Prize or the Rubenstein Prize, but not both. If you are an organization based in a country outside the United States, you may apply for the International Prize or the Rubenstein Prize, but not both.

  14. My organization is based in the United States, but works internationally; can we apply for the International Prize?
    No. Organizations based in the United State should apply for either the American Prize or the Rubenstein Prize, regardless of where they perform work.

  15. How many prize categories can I apply in?
    Each organization may apply in only one category each year.

  16. Letters of Reference

  17. What should a letter of reference contain?
    The letter should include a short description of how the writer knows the organization and a brief statement about why he or she feels that it should be considered for an award. Letters that specifically address the difference the organization makes and its unique value to the promotion of literacy are highly encouraged.

  18. How long should they be?
    There is no word count for the references, but most are 1,000 words or less.

  19. Who should write the letters of reference?
    Letters should come from someone outside of the nominated organization who knows the program and can clearly articulate why the organization’s work should be considered for the award. This might include partners, policy advisers, academics, government officials, beneficiaries or anyone else who is familiar with the organization’s work.

  20. How many letters of reference are required?
    Two letters of reference should accompany your application.

  21. Can we send in more than two letters?

  22. To whom should the letters be addressed?
    The letters can be addressed to the Literacy Awards Advisory Board as follows:

    “Dear Literacy Awards Advisory Board,”

  23. Essay

  24. What information should the essay contain?
    The essay should summarize why the organization should be considered for the prize, focusing on how it meets the evaluation criteria (innovation, sustainability, replicability, measurable results and evidence-based practice). The most important information to include in the essay is a description of what the organization does and who it serves. Given the size limitation of the essay, nominators are encouraged to have their text focus on the value of the work the organization provides and the difference that work makes in increasing literacy and/or public awareness of the need for literacy.

  25. How much information about context/organizational history should be included in the essay?
    A brief statement about the organizational history is useful, which might include the length of time the program has been active and any important milestones that are relevant to the organization’s current work. Again, a reference to website content may be appropriate to provide in-depth history or background.

  26. How do I add links to the essay to direct readers to additional information?
    At this time the best way to add links is to put the URL directly into the text of the essay. Links embedded in the text may not be accessible.

  27. My essay is more than 750 words, is that acceptable?
    Essays longer than 750 words may be disqualified.

  28. Do URLs add to the word count?
    Yes. Each URL counts as one word.

  29. Selection Criteria

  30. What are the selection criteria by which my organization is evaluated?
    Organizations are evaluated based on their innovation, sustainability, replicability, measurable results and evidence-based practice.

  31. Where can I find more information on addressing the selection criteria in my application?
    See About the Selection Criteria.

  32. How many words are acceptable for the selection criteria statements?
    Each of the five statements should be no more than 250 words, for a total of no more than 1,250 words for all five statements. Statements exceeding 250 words may be disqualified.

  33. Can the selection criteria statements and the essay contain some of the same information?
    Yes. However, the selection criteria statements are a chance for you to provide a focused view of how your organization’s work is innovative, sustainable and replicable, produces measurable results and incorporates evidence-based practice. The essay allows you to provide a narrative about your organization, including a description, history, background, important milestones and the impact of your work.

  34. Re-applying

  35. How do I reapply?
    If you have applied for an award in the past, you must reapply to be considered for this year. To apply fill out a new application form, update or rewrite your essay to reflect any changes or new achievements since the prior application and attach your letters of reference. Specifically, any applications (and their supporting material) from prior years are not considered in the current year application process.

  36. Do I have to submit different letters of reference?
    We encourage organizations to obtain current letters of reference that speak to the organization’s current application. If the letters of reference from the past are being used, they must be resubmitted with the new application. All prior year’s applications and supporting materials are not considered in the current year’s application process.

  37. My organization applied previously and was not recognized; should we bother applying again?
    Yes. Some of our winners and best practice honorees applied multiple times before being recognized. The applicant pool and best practice categories change each year, so you should continue to apply.

  38. My organization applied previously and received recognition for our implementation of a best practice; may we apply again?
    Yes. We encourage organizations that have previously applied to the Literacy Awards program and not won one of the three prizes to submit their applications again each year.

  39. Best Practices

  40. What does it mean to be a best practices honoree?
    Each year 12 to15 organizations are recognized for their successful implementation of a specific literacy promotion practice. Short profiles of these groups are included in the annual Library of Congress Literacy Awards publication along with descriptions of the prizewinners.

  41. Do the practices stay the same each year?
    No. The practices highlighted in the Library of Congress Literacy Awards publication change each year. Therefore, even if an organization has not been included previously it might be a perfect fit in another year.

  42. How are the practices selected?
    The practices are selected based on current literacy research and policy as reflected by publications, conferences and the applications themselves.

  43. Do I need to apply separately to be considered for “best practices” recognition?
    No. Honorees are chosen from all three prize categories.

  44. Miscellaneous

  45. Can I request feedback on my application if it is not successful?
    General feedback may be provided to unsuccessful applicants. Due to limited personnel resources, detailed and timely responses cannot be guaranteed.

  46. Can I submit my application in a language other than English?
    At this time we are only able to evaluate materials submitted in English. If you wish to use letters of reference that are written in another language, please provide an English translation as well.

  47. I have more questions. Whom should I contact?
    Email questions to